Anyone that has a pet knows how quickly they can become a member of the family. You miss them when you don’t see them for a while, and the feeling is usually mutual. You’ll do whatever it takes to keep them happy and healthy — or at least you should — and that includes keeping them free of nasty parasites like ticks. Unfortunately, one particular brand of flea collars has now been linked to hundreds of pet deaths across the country, along with nearly 1,000 human injuries and a total of over 75,000 reports of adverse reactions.
A new report by USA Today reveals the details. The Seresto collar developed by drug giant Bayer is at the center of an absolutely massive pile of reports suggesting that it can be dangerous or even deadly to cats and dogs. The collars, which were first rolled out in 2012, have a long history of reports related to pet deaths and injuries, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a massive archive of the cases. Yet, as USA Today notes, there have been no warnings or recalls issued for the collars.
When contacted for additional information, the EPA told the news agency that the chemicals used in the Seresto collars have “been found eligible for continued registration,” meaning that there are no plans to pull the product from the market or restrict its distribution.
The EPA also provided the following statement:
No pesticide is completely without harm, but EPA ensures that there are measures on the product label that reduce risk. The product label is the law, and applicators must follow label directions. Some pets, however, like some humans, are more sensitive than others and may experience adverse symptoms after treatment.
Based on the EPA data, approximately 1,700 domestic pets have died after using the collar. Another 3,800 have experienced major health effects, 7,700 have experienced moderate reactions, and 21,400 have experienced minor reactions. On top of that, 907 humans have had health reactions to the collars, presumably when handling them and not wearing them.
Some of the human incident reports were related to pet owners sleeping in the same bed as a dog wearing one of the collars. Hospitalizations have been reported from close contact with an animal wearing the Seresto collars, along with heart arrhythmias, soft tissue irritation, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
The collars were developed by Bayer, but the company sold its entire animal health operation to Elanco Animal Health in 2019 for $7.6 billion. Bayer’s earnings data shows that the collars earned the company over $300 million in 2019, so you can see why a recall could cause a noticeable impact on the company’s bottom line.
Studies declaring the safety of the chemicals used in the collars have come under fire from organizations like the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, but nothing has resulted in restrictions of its use in pet collars. We’ll have to wait and see if this new publicity leads to further investigations and potential action, but the fact that the product has remained on the market for nearly a decade despite the well-known risks suggests it may dodge a recall yet again.